Herrera punches ticket to nationals to cap ITA Regionals run
Bucek and Herrera both make great strides at the tournament.
MAIZE — This past weekend, the Bethel College men’s and women’s tennis teams competed in the ITA Regional Tournament with other teams both within and outside of the KCAC.
With multiple Threshers qualifying in doubles and singles, the standouts were sophomores Daniele Herrera and Fatima Nemi and junior Milan Bucek. Bucek played a stellar tournament beating the four-seed and five-seed to advance to the semifinals. He wasn’t seeded in singles and made it to the quarterfinals in doubles with freshman Petr Kollar.
Bucek was the only men's player from the conference to make it to the semifinal. “I probably played the best matches in my life,” Bucek from Pelhrimov, Czech Republic said. “Thanks to my strong belief that I can win any point, I was able to go so far.”
Herrera from Juarez, Mexico who won the ITA tournament in 2020 as a freshman, said, “I was nervous to come back this year because I didn’t play last year … I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest.”
After missing last year's tournament and competing this year, taking the crown for a second time, Herrera is now 2-0 in the ITA Regional Tournament and was also the only women's player from the conference to make it to the semifinals. She defeated the one-seed and two-seed from William Woods University as the nine-seed — and also got to the semifinals in doubles with Fatima Nemi before falling to Texas Wesleyan.
“My mentality was at an all-time high, and that's one thing that helped me,” Herrera said. “Also another thing that helped me was my teammates and the ability for them to be near me and cheer for me as I was playing. After I won, I remember looking at all of them screaming and I also screamed louder than I ever have before.”
“I was very happy with the results this weekend,” head coach Gabe Johnson said. “When you have an ITA champion and three semifinalists, you have to be happy. We had great momentum to end the fall and head into the spring and we competed from top to bottom really well which was good to see.”
He continued, “In tight moments [Herrera] was locked in — and I knew she would play her best tennis in those moments. When that's the case, you'd be happy to live with the outcome every time. We saw each player during their matches looking over celebrating with their teams and their teams yelling right back at them, pumping each other up. That’s what brings me the most happiness as a coach. Seeing the team so invested in one another and playing for one another out there on the court.”
Bucek and Herrera were both named KCAC Player of the Week for their performances at the tournament. Herrera will compete in the National Tournament on Oct. 13-16 in Rome, Ga.